How many of you talk to your dogs? Probably all of us, right? Now, how many of you think your dogs understand everything that you say? Probably none of us. Do you know why? There is a fundamental difference in how we talk and how our dogs talk – it’s not just a different language, it’s a different format.
I want you to consider this number: 171,476. That’s how many words are in the English language in use today, according to the 20-volume Oxford Dictionary of the English Language. Add to that another 9500 derivative words (such as childish from the word child) and we have nearly 181,000 words in use today (as a side note, there are 47,176 obsolete words not normally used in today’s language).
Want to make this even more mind-boggling? These numbers don’t include technical language, which is a large portion of some humans’ communication. And since we don’t understand the meanings that people are trying to convey to us, why would we think that our dogs would understand?
Our dogs speak a language that includes only 2 communication variables – energy and body language. Frankly, humans use body language as a communication tool as well (only 93% of the time!) but we don’t concentrate on that as often, especially when we are trying to communicate with our dogs.
Watch how dogs interact. Their world is nose centric as far as taking in information along with body language. Watch at the dog park when dogs meet & greet and you can see all the variables that are taking place. Tension? A fight/disagreement is on the horizon. Invitation to play? Some will take them up on it, others are not interested. Playing too rough? The dogs will self-regulate or another dog will step in the middle as a referee to ease that tension so everyone can reset.
Remember that YOUR body language and energy are a signal to your dog and if your canine companion isn’t calm and balanced they will see that communication from you as a direction for action (being overly protective of you from other dogs/people, etc.) In fact, in the examples that I used at the dog park, humans will often trigger a fight and keep one going much longer than it would be how unstable the humans become. This is a pet peeve of mine; first, don’t go to a dog park if you don’t want dogs around your dog. Second, keep your mouth mostly closed if something needs correction or redirection (human emotions come out through words and it’s usually not the correct emotion – emotion equals weakness in the canine world!) and simply move toward the issue.
A true pack leader with calm energy can diffuse an event just by mere presence and taking space from the dogs involved. I have watched Koa do this on many occasions and he has never been bitten, nor has he given attention to that energy that needs correcting. And it quells the disturbance in record time.
Until the next time, communicate with less words and emotion and just use 2: Energy and Body Language!